Nearly 250 arrests and 556 gas and alarm pistols seized are a few of the final results of Operation Bosphorus, a series of international actions conducted in 2016. The actions involved ten EU Member States with co-ordination by Romania as the activity’s leader and were underpinned by the full operational and analytical support of Europol.
Operation Bosphorus is a series of actions developed under the EMPACT Firearms OAP 2015 targeting the gas/alarm pistols of a Turkish manufacture trafficked into Europe via Bulgaria.
Based upon intelligence packages provided by Europol, ten EU Member States – namely Romania, Greece, Belgium, the Netherlands, Poland, Cyprus, Finland, Sweden, Spain and the UK (with the support of Bulgaria) – agreed to investigate the acquisition and possession of such firearms by their nationals or in their territory, since according to their own national legislation, a declaration or authorisation is required to acquire, import and possess such a firearm in these countries.
To date, Operation Bosphorus has resulted in 245 arrests, 421 house searches, 556 gas/alarm pistols being found and seized (as well as 108 other firearms) and the capture of 33,748 rounds of ammunition.
Other illegal commodities found have included silencers, tools for converting the pistols to live firing, stun guns, indoor cannabis plantations, sniper scopes, grenades, pepper sprays, magazines and 234 ancient coins (representing cultural goods/antiquities violations).
In Spain, at least four illicit workshops for the conversion of weapons to live firing and the production of ammunition were identified and dismantled. With the support of a Europol mobile office deployed for a week in Athens, authorities in Greece arrested over 100 individuals and seized 101 pistols and 5,537 rounds of ammunition.
In recent years, gas/alarm pistols have become extremely popular among criminals and have been represented in considerable figures in firearm trafficking and seizure cases. This is mainly due to the fact that:
*their conversion to live firing is very easy (and can also be reversed if required)
*they’re made of metal and are quite reliable in firing live ammunition
*they’re relatively cheap and easy to access
*most models are an imitation of an existing live firing weapon and, even if they’re not converted, such pistols can be used in acts of criminality for the purpose of intimidation